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Cleared defendants demand legal expenses from cancer shoe factory victims

File photo of a demonstration by Astrasol plaintiffs

Cancer patients who filed a lawsuit against a shoe factory and others for causing their illness said on Wednesday that they have been threatened with legal action if they don’t pay the legal expenses of two of the four defendants who were acquitted in the case.

The delay is because the damages the court awarded to the plaintiffs against the three other defendants that were found guilty have not yet been awarded, pending an appeal to the supreme court.

Latsia cancer patients’ group called out the company’s registrar and Latsia municipality, found not guilty in the lawsuit against Astrasol shoe sole factory for toxic gas emissions, after they demanded prompt payment of their legal fees by the plaintiffs.

“Instead of the mayor of Latsia and the company’s registrar respecting the struggle we experience day and night and the fact cancer patients did not receive a penny, they are turning against them and demand their money. Shame,” the group said.

A class-action suit, involving 22 plaintiffs overall, was filed back in 2010 against seven individuals and organisations responsible for the operation of the company in the area.

The lawsuit was filed by cancer patients and the relatives of those who died, who got sick as a result of the factory’s operations.

The four cleared of all charges were Sotires Liasi, Maroulla Liasi, the official receiver of the liquidation of the company’s property before the end of 2008 and the Latsia municipality.

The court awarded them their legal fees, amounting to a few thousand euros.

The municipality’s lawyer sent a letter to the plaintiffs on February 5, asking for the payment of the legal fees in instalments and threatening them with a new lawsuit if they fail to comply with the court’s ruling.

An investigation into their financial situation was also called by the lawyer of the official receiver of the company’s liquidation.

“This has caused a lot of distress and anxiety to cancer patients, who are upset and do not know what to do, who to address and where to find justice,” said the association’s statement.

The plaintiffs argue they cannot pay the acquitted defendants as they have not received the damages from the three found guilty because the attorney-general filed a request to the Nicosia district court to suspend the award of damages pending an appeal to the supreme court.

In December 2017 the court had found that government services and the Astrasol shoe factory in Latsia as well as his director, Phoevos Liasis, were inadvertently liable for using an excessive amount of dichloromethane R40, a chemical classified as ‘likely to be carcinogenic in humans’.

In July 2019, the court awarded a combined €433,000 in damages to the six remaining plaintiffs, after the rest had died.

The defendants have appealed the liability decision. Meanwhile the plaintiffs, represented by lawyer Loukis Loukaides, have filed a counter-appeal on the grounds that the damages awarded are too low.

Liasis Shoelasts Company Ltd was operating from 1976 until 2009.

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